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How to make (or buy) very small rigging blocks (around 1mm)?


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Posted (edited)

I am planning to start work on a 1:180 model of the yacht Endeavour (1934). 

I am going to need to make some very small blocks (around 1mm or possibly even less).

They will need to be iron stropped blocks. 

 

I have tried various techniques to make them with limited success - and found it very time consuming. 

 

Does anyone have any proven techniques to make these?

(Apart from the paper techniques suggested by Philip Reed in his books - which I have already looked at). 

 

Or is it possible to purchase some ready made anywhere?

 

Thanks in advance

 

Tim

Edited by Tim Curtis
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Thanks Bob. 

The challenge with bead would be trying to attach a wire strop to it. 

I don't have the resources to cast in metal. But I could try FIMO - that's an interesting idea. Do you know if you can drill a hole in fimo once it is baked - or is it too brittle?

 

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1mm or smaller blocks, particularly iron stropped is quite a task.

The closest I came to making 1mm  blocks was  for gun rigging on a 1:150 model.

002.thumb.JPG.6bfb25755c524e82668f7c8b7a5997b6.JPG

For this I used Evergreen styrene strip to form the blocks, it can be drilled and  then cut to length, very fine copper wire was used for the strops.

006.thumb.JPG.8dc045ef269186516afe9ee9e4d736b7.JPG

 

They are incredibly tiny to handle.

 

B.E.

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Posted (edited)

My model's at 1:200 scale and I'm in the same boat as you (oops! Sorry!).

 

I've given up on making blocks this size with sheaves or even a pair of holes to make a fake "sheave". Just too difficult, and considerable danger of splitting. I've compromised with accuracy and used hearts instead of blocks. I make them individually. I drill a hole in a piece of wood the correct thickness, then carve around it to make the block.

 

20210619_210108.thumb.jpg.b7c320e32736df8d7ef797959f3c788a.jpg

 

I don't know if there are ready-made blocks out there for sale that are small enough for you.

 

I'd be very interested in seeing what other people have to say.

 

Steven

 

Edited by Louie da fly
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Dear Blue Ensign and Steven.

 

Thanks for your suggestions. Both look like possible options.

 

BE...how did you attach strops to the styrene blocks? 

 

Steven...I tried something similar using brass tube, without much success. But I like yours! 

 

Thanks,

 

Tim

 

 

 

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I had another go at this tonight. Here are results.

I basically create a laminate structure with a copper layer on either side of a wood strip.

The copper layer is actually one piece folded so that it is also used to create the strop.

Tried to draw diagram below.

Initial result is ok. But will need improving!

 

Any thoughts or suggestions welcome! 

 

Tim

IMG_20210622_232217.jpg

IMG_20210622_233734.jpg

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That looks like a system that would work, but can you get a block down to 1mm in length?, your prototype looks somewhat larger than that.

Chuck supplies 2mm blocks in Boxwood which would save you the trouble, and those are really tiny.

 

 For my own humble efforts I simply looped fine wire around the block and superglued it to the sides, leaving  a little loop at the top for the strop. at the bottom the wire was twisted and trimmed close.

 

Not entirely authentic but sufficient for the scale involved.

 

B.E.

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Greetings Tim,

 

Not sure if you could make them small enough for your purposes, but I've made the ones in the photo below quite easily. The metal used was .01 brass, cut as pictured, then filed and sanded into shape. The sheaves of these blocks are small slices the insulation from very fine electrical wire, drilled out to fit a piece of wire. The thicker wire was cut to length, then pushed into the holes in the brass with the sheave in between.  A tiny dab of super glue was used to hold them together.

 

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

Whistle Blower II 004.jpg

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Dear John Fox III 

 

That's really interesting solution! I really like it.

Can I ask what sort of models you used these on?

Were they 20th century boats or earlier? Or all different sorts?

 

I think I will use/adapt your approach.

 

THANK YOU!

 

Tim

 

 

 

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Here's the rest of how I make my wooden blocks.

 

Adding the strop.

 

20210624_092054.thumb.jpg.43009ed2b5868c692539148540960b81.jpg

 

Wrapping the strop around the block - I tried two ways of doing it - one with the block still attached to the main bit of wood; the other with it already separated. It turned out to be harder to carve the block with the strop attached than to do it the other way around.

 

20210624_113003.thumb.jpg.d569f9a0b860f987c05597ce6b07b147.jpg

 

Then a thumb knot in the strop at the bottom of the block.

 

20210624_113500.thumb.jpg.5b5ddc11588ac53a1bdfcae82537e5ef.jpg

 

And complete:

 

20210624_123951.thumb.jpg.17b4e072b47e0ed990122b858cad3b71.jpg

 

20210624_112333.thumb.jpg.b1cc54f41caad23fcf40206f6e62275d.jpg 

 

Steven

 

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20 hours ago, Tim Curtis said:

 

 

That's really interesting solution! I really like it.

Can I ask what sort of models you used these on?

Were they 20th century boats or earlier? Or all different sorts?

 

I think I will use/adapt your approach.

 

THANK YOU!

 

Tim

 

 

 

Greetings Tim,

You are more than welcome! Glad the info was of some use to you. I've used this style of block making for at least two modern boats. First is the Morris Linda 28 "Shearwater", which was inserted into a street light bulb in pieces and assembled inside, hence the loose rigging lines as they can only be tightened up when the model is completely reassembled. The second is a modern copy of a famous sandbagger that won many races on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. There is a part of a dime visible in the Shearwater closeup for size comparison.

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

Moris 28 Linda 362.jpg

Moris 28 Linda 411.jpg

Whistle Blower II 120.jpg

Whistle Blower II 130.jpg

Whistle Blower II 135.jpg

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I litterally spent the last six months trying to solve exactly this problem. For my current project I need only 1.6 mm and 2.0 mm long double outside iron-strapped blocks in a shape appropriate for the later 19th century, but I meant to develop a procedure with which I can make larger number of reasonably uniform blocks down to 1 mm length.

 

There were originally two main criteria: a) avoid drilling numerous tiny holes down to 0.1 mm diameter and b) ensure that the rope runs out tangentially from the block and doesn't stick out radially with a sharp kink.

 

Many years ago it occurred to me that one could etch the shells and sheaves from brass sheet (using surface etching) as parts that can be folded up and then soldered together. Unfortunately, at the moment I am not set up for etching anymore, so this idea was not practical.

 

Since I bought a small laser-cutter about two and a half years ago, I attemped to adapt the above idea and cut the pieces from Canson-paper. Cutting the parts as such went well, but the precise alignment of the tiny flecks of paper proved impossible and the holes for the rope tended to fill up with the lacquer I used for laminating. Being paper (albeit soaked in lacquer) the blocks could not really be sanded - particularly holding them for the purpose was just not feasible. After numerous attempts with different configurations for building the blocks from layers I gave up.

 

I also attempted a variant of the above using brass sheaves and making only the shell from paper. However, turning 0.6 mm brass sheaves of 0.2 mm or less thickness did not work even on my watchmakers lathe, at least not in quantities.

 

I tried the method of building up layers from styrene sheet and using brass sheaves. While styrene sands better than paper, the problems of holding and making the sheaves remain.

 

For an earlier model I had tried to mill and drill blocks from brass or perspex rod. Perspex is easy to machine, but thin parts are very brittle. Brass can be machined to intricate shapes, but drilling multiple 0.2 mm holes into brass is a challenge and may result in many broken drills ...

 

In the end I reverted back to a miniaturisation of the traditional method of shaping blocks in a row from strips sawn to the outside dimension. However, I am not using wood, because the grain, even in boxwood, causes problems at these small dimensions. I prefer to use brown bakelite as used in electronics and electrical applications. Bakelite can be a bit brittle, but machines and polishes well.

 

The procedure I finally arrived at is (based on the capacity of my micro-milling vice, I working with batches of eight blocks) for a 1.5 mm block:

 

1- Cut strips that are a tad wider than the blocks are long from bakelite sheet of suitable thickness (here 1 mm)

2 - Mount strips into the milling vice so that 0.15 mm deep grooves for the sheaves can cut with a 0.2 mm circular saw blade

3- Repeat from the other side

4- Re-orient the milling vice so that at one end, in suitable distance from the edge, 0.2 mm holes can be drilled through the grooves

5- Re-position the strip, so that the grooves for the strap can be milled into the top- and bottom-ends with a conical burr

6- Rough-shape the block by milling off the corners with the same conical burr

7- Take the strip back to the circular saw and cut off the individual blocks

8- Hold the block in a pin-vice that has a recession milled in and round-off with a rubberised abrasive wheel in the hand-held drill

9- Round-off the groove into the drill-hole using a tiny graver fashioned from a piece of 0.2 mm thick piercing saw blade (for holes above 0.25 mm diameter also diamond-studded piercing saws wires are available that can be used for this)

 

The blocks are now ready for the external strap. I tried the strapping with flattened copper-wire, but this proofed to be too flimsy and broke all the time. In the end I used the round wire, although this is not quite correct - there are limitations. Basically, I loope the wire around the block and then drilled the two ends together. For blocks that have an eye at one end, the eye was first formed with very fine tweezers and the wire then looped around the block as before. The block was held in the same adapted pin-vice as above.

 

image.png.575ea7f506781964882066e382736dfa.png

A collection of blocks and the special pin-vice to hold them

 

This is how far I got. The next step will be forming the hooks and stiffening them with solder. Otherwise the wire is too soft.

 

Earlier stages of these tries are illustrated in my current building log: 

 

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Dear Wefalk,

 

Thanks so much for sharing your secrets with us!

The results look fantastic....

Maybe I need to buy a milling machine....but might struggle to explain to my wife that it was a necessary addition to the household in order to make 1mm blocks.

 

By the way I love your Wespe armoured gunboat project....it's beautiful.

 

Thanks,

 

Tim

 

 

 

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Last night I was browsing through my copy of Modeling Maritime History by Malcolm Darch, a highly skilled professional model maker in the U K.  The last chapter in the book is about building a 1:96 scale model of the 4 masted bark Moshulu.  This model required hundreds of small blocks.

 

Here is Darch’s System for producing them that I am NOT recommending.

 

He took a small diameter lead shot and cut a groove or grooves in it with a scalpel.  He laid the line or lines that would be passing through it in the cut grooves and squeezed it shut with pliers.   He drilled a small hole in the top and glued in a tiny eyebolt.  He painted the block white.

 

I would seem that even professionals sometimes resort to questionable techniques.

 

Roger

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 6/24/2021 at 10:04 AM, Roger Pellett said:

Here is Darch’s System for producing them that I am NOT recommending.

 

He took a small diameter lead shot and cut a groove or grooves in it with a scalpel.  He laid the line or lines that would be passing through it in the cut grooves and squeezed it shut with pliers.   He drilled a small hole in the top and glued in a tiny eyebolt.  He painted the block white.

 

Now that you mention it, I remember seeing that technique in Darch's book. At the time, I also winced at the use of lead shot, which could "bloom" and fall apart. While I haven't yet had occasion to try it, I'd do much the same with FIMO, but instead of placing the line inside a ball of soft FIMO, I'd use a piece of lost wax wire* which would melt away when the FIMO was baked in the oven, leaving a small hole for the line to be run through. If the hook or eye at one end of the block had a small hook in its mounting peg and the FIMO was formed around it, the wire hook or eye would be well held in the hardened FIMO after baking. As most know, FIMO plastic clay (which is sold by other manufacturers under different brand names) can be rolled very thin and block cheek shapes can easily be cut or stamped cookie cutter fashion from the thin sheet of FIMO.

 

*  "Wax wire" is used by dental labs and jewelry manufacturers in the lost wax casting process. They are sticks of uniformly sized casting wax in various diameters, usually expressed in wire gauges. See: https://contenti.com/jewelry-casting-supplies/carving-specialty-waxes/round-wax-wires

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